Following opening remarks by former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley that drew cheers from the crowd, Holt quickly jumped in to ‘caution the audience.’
‘Let’s not go down this road,’ he said. ‘We’ve asked you to please, you know, keep restraining yourselves… these are important issues and the voters want and need to hear them.’
The remarks did little to calm tensions from the crowd and the candidates on stage, who traded barbs as the debate got off to a hot-tempered start.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage Wednesday night for the third Republican presidential primary debate in Miami, Florida.
NBC News anchor Lester Holt (left) struggled to contain the audience early on in a fiery start to the third Republican presidential debate
Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Holt’s orders to the crowd came as moderators, also including radio host Hugh Hewitt and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker, asked the candidates why they should be nominated over former President Donald Trump, who holds commanding leads in polls.
Ramaswamy took the opportunity to take aim at the ‘corrupt media establishment’, accusing the media of rigging the 2020 election in an early moment that drew a reaction from the crowd.
At that moment, Holt again petitioned the audience to quiet down: ‘Audience, let’s not do this, let’s not do this. Let’s let the candidates speak.’
The moderators’ struggle to contain the audience was hampered by several further moments of contention among the candidates.
In particular, Ramaswamy repeated his attacks on Haley as a ‘war hawk’ over the issue of funding for Ukraine, appearing to describe her as ‘Dick Cheney in three inch heels.’
Haley responded by quipping that her heels are ‘not for fashion, they’re for ammunition.’
The former UN Ambassador, who held the role under President Trump, was also embroiled in a hostile moment with Ramaswamy over the issue of TikTok, when the entrepreneur brought up her daughter.
After Haley joined her GOP rivals in condemning the Chinese-made social media platform, Ramaswamy claimed that her daughter was spotted using the popular app.
In response, Haley warned Ramaswamy to ‘keep my daughters name out of your voice’, adding that he was ‘scum.’
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (right) became embroiled in several early spats with other rivals, including Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (left)
Former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie slammed former President Trump in his opening statement
Former Governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley has seen a surge in polls in recent weeks coming into the debate
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott squared off with his rivals early in the debate
The early stages of the debate in Miami, Florida saw Ramaswamy face off with several candidates, after he made eye-opening remarks including arguing the moderators should be replaced with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, podcast host Joe Rogan and Tesla and X CEO Elon Musk.
The millionaire biotech entrepreneur also dared Republican National Committee Chair McDaniel to come out on stage and resign, citing continuing election losses for down-ballot Republicans in recent years.
‘I think there’s something deeper going on in the Republican Party here, and I am upset about what happened last night,’ Ramaswamy said, referencing a slew of GOP election losses, including in his home state of Ohio.
‘We’ve become a party of losers at the end of the day with the cancer of the Republican establishment,’ he added. ‘Let’s speak the truth. Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022 – no red wave that never came.’
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy made several outlandish remarks early in the debate that sparked response from both the crowd and the other candidates on stage
‘For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I’ll turn over and yield my time to you,’ he dared.
Ramaswamy also slated Welker over past news reports about Russian collusion with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
‘Kristen – I’m going to use this time because this is about you in the media and the corrupt media establishment, ask you – the Trump-Russia collusion hoax that you pushed on this network for years, was that real or Hillary Clinton made-up disinformation? Answer the question. Go,’ he demanded.
The NBC News moderator did not get a chance to respond as the audience applauded and cheered, leading Holt to again plead with the crowd to quiet.
In a discussion about foreign policy, Ramaswamy attacked other candidates as ‘Ukraine hawks’ before his lack of foreign policy experience was jumped upon by Haley.
‘I am telling you, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and President Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president, they would love [it],’ she said.